Locarno at The Seasons; or, Dancing Out of Disaster

Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you’re perfectly free.
— Jalaluddin Rumi

We almost didn’t make it out.

The day of the show crept up on us faster than a Pac-Man ghost, and my husband and I were stretched so thin that day. Our bank account had a middle finger emoji where the balance should have been. Not only that, but we were running on about four hours of sleep between us and I was pretty sure my favorite date night shirt smelled like pee. Wide, red-rimmed eyes met my husband’s gaze. “We’re going. You know that, right? We are going to this show if it kills us.”

“Sure,” James said, ever agreeable. “It sounds like fun.”

There was a stretch of about a year and a half when my oldest son was first born where we didn’t go out at all. It seemed absolutely impossible. I was limp in the unforgiving clutch of undiagnosed postpartum depression, and having a night to ourselves seemed selfish.

I know better now. It’s achingly difficult to separate parenthood from personhood, especially if you’re new at it and feel like if you turn away for an instant, it’s going to be the instant which ruins everything. I lost myself those first two years. I drowned my soul in spit-up and sing-alongs. Things are different today. I’m now almost four years and two kids into this shindig now, and every hour I can find to spend alone with my husband – appreciating everything he is and everything I married him for – is worth the chaos of trying to make it happen. Each night we have to ourselves pumps the poison of parental isolation from my lungs and breathes hope into my heart.

Now we were on the steps of the Seasons Performance Hall, waiting to see a band called Locarno at a friend’s suggestion. I hadn’t been to a concert since seeing Penguin Prison in LA almost two years prior so I was practically vibrating: I’m going to see music while it’s being made and they’re going to sing right at me and I’m going to dance so hard that people will probably sue. An interesting thing about this particular band, however, is that it wasn’t the type of music my husband and I were typically enthusiastic about. The largest foray I ever had into Mexican music was in 2009 when I obsessed about Kinky’s Barracuda for three solid months. Almost everything else I’ve ever loved has been either painfully hipsteresque or acid-trip prog rock dripping with cynicism and irony.

Still, we were no strangers to horizon-broadening change. And we were pumped.

Locarno did not disappoint. Through a passionate and colorful marriage of folk, Mexican traditional music and popular rhythmic foundations, they delivered an unforgettable performance that brought a youthful and exploratory light into what otherwise would have been “just another evening.” Both my husband and I were absolutely mesmerized by Kalissa’s violin.

About halfway through, the group started into “Albuquerque Disaster.” It was an instrumental piece written in a hotel during – you guessed it – an Albuquerque disaster, when a state of emergency was declared due to the flooding.  “It was a moat,” frontman Tom Landa recalled. “This is not a moat.” It was during this song that I had a bit of a revelation – a dangerous one, considering I’d just indulged in an IPA from the Seasons’ convenient bar: at the beginning of the set, Tom encouraged people to get up and dance if they were so moved. The show was half over, and no one had yet made their way to the front. It felt like a very stiff and starched way to enjoy music that so sincerely motivated me to move my body.

“You want to dance, honey?”

James looked up at me, mildly horrified yet composed. “But no one else is dancing.”

I didn’t want to lose my nerve. I knew no one was dancing, and I was trying desperately to overcome the vulnerability that came from possibly being the first ones. “Yes, but he told us we could dance if we wanted to, and I want to dance.”

There was a mischievous glimmer in my husband’s eyes, but he didn’t move. I knew he wanted to dance, too. So, I swallowed and took his hand; he immediately moved from his seat to follow me and then we were both walking hand in hand toward the front of the performance hall below the stage.

And we danced to a song written during a disaster.

It encapsulated the essence of life. We knew that when the show was over we would have to return to the chaos and uncertainty of daily existence. However, there is an urgency and necessity to find the music in it and move to it in a rebellious dance lest it go unappreciated. And oh, oh; there was so much dancing. Soon after, there were at least twenty people on the floor.

Locarno ended their set shortly after nine o’clock, and the crowd filed out into the chilled but mild night of early spring. I stayed behind to talk with Tom for a little while about his band and the history behind their music.

//

Very nice to meet you. It was a wonderful show.

Thank you!

It was the first show in a long while that I was sitting and felt compelled to get up and dance.

Good! (laughs)

How did you guys go about finding your unique sound?

I was born and raised in Mexico, but moved to Canada in my teens. My mom’s Canadian, and my dad’s Mexican – I was born in Mexico but raised in a bilingual home where we spoke both English and Spanish – and when I moved to Canada, I sort of put Mexico behind me. It wasn’t until my 20s that I rediscovered Mexican music, and that’s what inspired this band: to showcase my heritage and my upbringing.

I think my husband has a lot in common, in that he’s half Mexican but was raised in a unilingual home – English only. So now he’s trying to reconnect with the other heritage he has, and it’s a lot harder than you’d think it would be.

You have to speak to your kids in both English and Spanish or they won’t be able to really speak Spanish.

Exactly. We’re trying with ours, but it’s a long road.

Well, at least you live here, you know? There’s a lot of Spanish all around. And even if you just try speaking to them and they don’t speak back, they’re still picking it up and can understand it.

Definitely. So how’d you all meet?

Nick, Kalissa and I all started this band called the Paperboys, and that’s how we all know each other – then I met Robin through Kalissa, because they were friends. Through him I met Liam, and the rest of the guys through the Vancouver music scene.

Oh, cool! Basically, it was word of mouth. Like, “Hey, I know a guy who knows a guy…”?

Exactly!

By the way, those drums and marimbas? Totally bomb.

Pretty great, eh? (laughs)

How did you think to incorporate them?

You know, marimbas are a really big part of Mexican music from a specific region – but it’s pretty big – and when I first brought in Robin it was as a percussionist only. And then I said, you should bring your marimbas to a gig or a rehearsal sometime and see what happens. We were like, “that was really cool.”

(laughs) I agree! It was very cool. That said: where do you hope Locarno will go from here?

We’re actually recording a second record soon, so there’s another record, and then we’re hoping to do some more touring like we did around this time last year. So we’re doing some touring in Europe, and more touring in the States. We all love this band, and everyone prioritizes this band, but everyone’s also really busy. I’ve got the Paperboys, Robin and Liam teach at a school, and everyone’s got other demands and other projects so we come together as often as possible – but I’d like to make the leap so Locarno gets busier and more full-time. It’s going to be tough. We just want to keep touring and make more records, basically keep doing what we’re doing.

All right! Well, thank you for a great show!

We always love it when people get up and dance. So thank you for that.

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Locarno is a Mexican-Cuban-Canadian fusion band with cultural brilliance and high aspirations. You can find them at http://locarnomusic.com.

Stream: Albuquerque Disaster by Locarno (3:47)

Lea Draven is a community wellness advocate who occasionally forgets how to breathe. She has an unhealthy obsession with bad puns and earthquakes.